God Chastens those he loves

IMG_1400Read Hebrews 12

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

God Disciplines His Children

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Warning and Encouragement

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

The Mountain of Fear and the Mountain of Joy

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[e] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”[f]

Footnotes:

  1. Hebrews 12:6 Prov. 3:11,12 (see Septuagint)
  2. Hebrews 12:13 Prov. 4:26
  3. Hebrews 12:20 Exodus 19:12,13
  4. Hebrews 12:21 See Deut. 9:19.
  5. Hebrews 12:26 Haggai 2:6
  6. Hebrews 12:29 Deut. 4:24
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Recently I had an experience with my prayer life in that I was chastened by God about how I pray.

I have a list of people that I go through each night and pray for prior to falling asleep…though there are some nights that I fall asleep and wake up when my arms fall asleep too from leaning on them with my head!  I figure God knows how tired I am, so I just start over with my prayer and then finish up and go to sleep for real.  Sometimes we are tired and unable to focus or even comprehend all that we have to say to God.

Anyhow, one night I was prayer as usual, and when I got down to a certain person on my list..the Holy Spirit really pushed me to prayer intensely for this person.  I began to seriously pour out my heart about this person and how much I would like to see them drawn toward God and see them become a much more happy person in the way a person who truly knows that he/she is loved by God will be happy….contentment and peace.

The next day, I was doing my daily tasks and the Lord whispered to me, “Do you know that this person doesn’t have anyone in their life to show them the Love of Christ?”  “There is no person who loves them without expecting something in return….without wanting them to turn around and suit their needs, instead of just loving them as they are now.”  I suddenly realized that it was true.  This person whom we all love, but have not been loving toward because of their decisions in life.  I realized that I was guilty of being judgmental and condemning toward that person.

I suddenly realized that there was another guilt that I had…in my prayers I had been praying for that person to be “guide, guard and protected”, but had not been praying with any real expectation beyond preservation of their life.  I had been praying without expectation of any change in their life whatsoever.   This is a terrible thing to realize.

I had been looking down on that person as someone whom God could not do anything to help them.  Unconsciously, my prayers were tainted by my worldly opinion of the person.  So, of course, the prayer would have very little if any power in that person’s life.

I felt quite devastated to realize that, although Jesus gave his Disciples the authority over things in earth and in heaven as far as casting out….I had never actually accepted that authority….the authority of change through prayer.

I mean, in my own life, and whenever someone would ask me to pray about something I did.  I was really comfortable about that…I always through the years…have prayed that God would help me with this or that and then started looking for the help to happen and watching for how God would help me to deal with whatever issue I needed help with.

Unfortunately, in this particular person’s life I had no such expectation, so did not look.  This meant that I was not praying with expectation of an answer.  I was unconsciously saying, “God I don’t expect much because their life is really a mess!”  Even though, I have met many people whose testimony about their lives told me that their life had really been a mess also, but God helped them to do something about it.

Yet, here I was looking at this person with the condemning eyes of the world, instead of the loving eyes of Christ.  There is no where in the Bible which would uphold what I was doing.

Yes, there are people who chose to turn their backs on God, and yes they get condemned for it.  The thing is, we, humans, have no way of telling who these people are.  We do not know what God knows.  We can only see that the person appears to be making unGodly choices with their life, we cannot know for sure, if they will continue to make those kinds of choices, or if something will happen to turn their heart toward God, and make them a huge minister for others around them.

God looks at us with, “where there is life…there is hope, I am a God of the living, not the dead”…attitude.  “I love you, and I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you…” God is a good God always!

Satan looks at us with, “you are too bad to be saved, just rot in your guilt and sin…don’t expect anything else”

Our Pastor, in his sermons over the past 3 weeks, has been being used by God to help bring me to this knowledge of my own sin.

The thing is that the second I realized that I had been praying while looking down on someone, praying without expectation, I felt miserable, and really apologized to God for it, and promised never to pray in that manner again.  The second I made the realization and the apology…I felt this magnificent feeling of power run through my body from toes to head..rising up through me…it felt like a huge release of power from the Holy Spirit in a big giant “atta girl!  I am glad that you realize this!  Now we can accomplish things with your prayers that we have never been able to accomplish before!”

Incidentally, the person lives over 600 miles from me, so at first I was not sure what I could do other than pray to have someone come into their life who can show them the love of Christ…but I realized that I could send them a care package and a card occasionally to give them a small bit of the love of Christ..kind of hoping to chip away at the pain and ice and anger in the person’s heart that they have received from being constantly looked down upon and condemned.  It is not much, but I am hoping that it is a small start.  It should improve my relationship with them also over time.  I wrote to them and confessed my sin to them.  Hopefully, they will as God does, forgive me my faults.

I am now praying with expectation every night, and usually at least some during the day…soon it will be without ceasing.  I have a picture in my head of them living a wonderful life of joy….I am praying with expectation that this picture will become a fact!

Those whom God loves, God chastens….the thing is that the chastening is not the chastening of the world…the love in this chastening was evident immediately and it drove out the guilt.  It was like God telling me, “I am revealing this to you so that you can draw closer to me…not so that you can be brought down by your guilt…it is to refine you into the person I created you to be.  I love you.  Don’t be upset, rejoice in the fact that I love you enough to tell you when you are doing the wrong thing.”

God is specific when he tells you what you are doing wrong, and he is gentle.

Satan is vague and uses guilt continually to remove your joy.

That is how you can tell them apart when you are not sure of what is going on.

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Read Proverbs 3:

Proverbs 3 New International Version (NIV)

Wisdom Bestows Well-Being

My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
    and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.[a]

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth,
    with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
    and your vats will brim over with new wine.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in.[b]

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
    by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
    and the clouds let drop the dew.

21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
    preserve sound judgment and discretion;
22 they will be life for you,
    an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
    and your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
    or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be at your side
    and will keep your foot from being snared.

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
    “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
    when you already have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
    who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
    when they have done you no harm.

31 Do not envy the violent
    or choose any of their ways.

32 For the Lord detests the perverse
    but takes the upright into his confidence.
33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
    but he blesses the home of the righteous.
34 He mocks proud mockers
    but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
35 The wise inherit honor,
    but fools get only shame.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 3:6 Or will direct your paths
  2. Proverbs 3:12 Hebrew; Septuagint loves, / and he chastens everyone he accepts as his child
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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Prayer for Healing

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Psalm 6:2 Be Merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; Oh Lord, Heal me for my bones are in agony.

Read Mark 9:14-29 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.  As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet Him.  What are you arguing with them about?  He asked.  A man in the crowd answered, teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground.  He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.  I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.  Oh unbelieving generation, Jesus replied, how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me.  So they brought him.  When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion.  He fell to the ground and rolled around foaming at the mouth.  Jesus asked the boy’s father, How long has he been like this?  From childhood, he answered.  It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.  If you can? said Jesus.  Everything is possible for him who believes.  Immediately the boys father exclaimed, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief! When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, He rebuked the evil spirit.  You deaf and mute spirit, He said, I command you come out of him and never enter him again.  The spirit shrieked, convulsed him and came out.  The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, he’s dead.  But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.  After Jesus had gone indoors, His disciples asked Him privately, why couldn’t we drive it out?   He replied, this kind can come out only by prayer.* 

*Some manuscripts say prayer and fasting – but it doesn’t appear that Jesus took time to fast before casting out this evil spirit…fasting would be a physical thing that we do ourselves and is not something that can enhance or add to the power of God.  It can help us to concentrate on God more, or to make us “feel” more sincere, but God actually knows how sincere we are already so we are inevitably really fasting for our own sake.  There are times when a person is inspired by the Holy Spirit to fast and pray and they should follow that leading in obedience to God. In that case it is the obedience which matters not the actual physical act of fasting. 

When Jesus is told that the Disciples could not drive out the evil spirit his response is that the generation is disbelieving and how long shall he stay with them.  This question is very serious and really needs some examination.  Is Jesus talking to the crowd?  or is he saying that his Disciples still lack belief?

If we look at Mark 6 there is an indication of the answer for us.  Mark 6 tells us about Jesus’ visit to his hometown.  As you can read, during that visit it says that due to the lack of faith in the town Jesus “could not” do any miracles there, except laying his hand on a few sick people and healing them.  So it seems that Jesus was actually talking more to the townspeople in Mark 9, than to his Disciples.  After all, if he were addressing his Disciples about their lack of faith, he would have spoken to them privately as he did in the end about why they couldn’t cast out the demon.    So what we learn from Mark 6  and Mark 9 is that what is required for the working of God is simply belief that God can and will work.  Please note that I am not saying that in every instance that we pray for the healing of a person that the healing will take place…sometimes the healing we wish for is not within God’s plans…sometimes there is a more important kind of healing that the person needs which is not always obvious to us.  Perhaps a healing of a different nature.

Mark 6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

So what kind of prayer would be required to cast out something like the demon in Mark 9?  Perhaps a prayer that God would bolster the faith of the people who are needing and looking for his intervention, but are not daring to believe in the possibility of God doing what they ask.  After all, the father of the boy recognized that Jesus was talking about him when he said that the generation was disbelieving…his response, “I do believe, help me to overcome my unbelief!”  So what did the father believe?  He believed that Jesus/God could and was able to help his son, but his unbelief was in whether Jesus/God would choose to help his son.  His unbelief was based on years of trying different things to help his son…it was based on experience.  Many times we are bound by our experience and that leads us to be in a state of unbelief.  A miracle is a miracle by virtue of it happening despite our experience that “such things don’t normally happen.”   Miracles are unbelievable incidents that is why they are greeted by such skepticism…our experience doesn’t want us to accept that this is possible…however, our spirit longs for the kind of childlike belief that it can.  The good news is that once we acknowledge that we have a problem with our ability to believe, then we can pray for “help with our unbelief” and God will bolster the little bit of belief that we have and help us to believe with our whole heart.  Then we start to see and know who God truly is in our lives…that is a true prayer of healing.